The haruspices

The divination of haruspices among the Etruscans consisted of predicting the future or making a decision, as in all divination, with the use of certain objects and practices that were specific to them. The art of divination was brought to the Etruscans by Tages, son of the earth.

All these rituals were consigned in specific libri and which were brought back to us by the Latin authors in the sum which constitutes Etrusca disciplina.


Inspection of victims' entrails

Their officiants (performers and not priests) were the haruspices and their main method was hepatoscopy (or hieroscopy), which consisted in scrutinizing the entrails, preferably the liver of an animal (or its malformations), compared with a model ( Foie de Plaisance), comprising the areas of influence, each attributed to the gods of their Pantheon.

Observation of natural signs

In celestial spaces :

The haruspicine was a reputed specialty of the haruspices. This other method (known since brontoscopy) consisted of the observation of lightning by the "fulgurating haruspices": The gods were each associated with one of the sixteen sectors cut out on the horizon. Colour, shape and brightness were the interpretation variables.

Seneca tells us about this:

“[…] the Etruscans believe that clouds collide to produce lightning; indeed, as they relate all things to the divinity, they consider that things have meaning not because they occur but that they occur for the sole purpose of signifying. »

The Romans also owe to Etruscan practices, the divination by their omens of the observation of birds of prey (oionoscopy or ornithomancy) to define their auspices (coming from notice the bird). Animal behavior :

  • Appetite of chickens in front of the grain thrown to them (tripudium sonivivum faciunt)

Behavior of natural objects :

  • Throwing nuts in front of the newlyweds, and analyzing their rebounds (tripudium solistimum)

Observation of wonders

This is the interpretation of natural phenomena occurring in the context of exceptional conditions (fire without cause, sudden death, lightning or thunder in good weather, monstrous birth, unusual acts of animals, malformed entrails, etc.):

  • The absence of caput on the liver presaged death; the presence of this part in double duplex caput, the confrontation of two forces, their conflict;
  • The fall without apparent cause of a rock or a tree (tripudium sonivivum), one of the most serious auspices.